By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs duo Harry Williams and Henry Slade both figured as Eddie Jones’ England secured a 2-0 series win over Argentina in Santa Fe on Saturday night.
Jones’ team followed up their dramatic 38-34 win in San Juan a week earlier with a more assured 35-25 victory in the second Test to register an eighth successive win over the 2015 World Cup semi-finalists, who will also provide the opposition for England at the Japan World Cup in 2019.
“It is a great achievement,” said Jones after his side became only the second England team to complete a series whitewash over Argentina. “I am very pleased for the team, I am pleased for the young players, I am pleased that they have got some more growth in them.
“It is now a chance to move forward. We have to try to fit 61 players into a 45-man EPS squad. That’s the next big thing I need to do.”
Without 30 players due to injury and British and Irish Lions calls, this tour was all about blooding youngsters with an eye on the next World Cup and like Williams, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry and Piers Francis all strengthened their cases.
However, England were also indebted to the experience of George Ford, Mike Brown, Chris Robshaw and Joe Launchbury as they saw off a determined Pumas outfit inspired by the raucous atmosphere generated by a near-capacity crowd of 29,750 at Estadio CA Colon.
“A few guys have done really well,” Jones added. “Harry Williams, Charlie Ewels, Tom Curry and Sam Underhill at openside flanker, Mark Wilson has proved himself to be a very competent player. In the back-line Piers Francis and Alex Lozowski are worth looking at, also Denny Solomona.
“Nathan Earle didn’t play but we will keep looking at him as well. I thought Robshaw and Brown were absolutely exceptional. They showed why they are 50-cap Test players.”
England took a narrow 18-13 lead into half-time following maiden international tries from lock Charlie Ewels and centre Francis in addition to eight points from the boot of Ford, while Argentina scored through Joaquin Tuculet’s touchdown and two penalties from Nicholas Sanchez.
Pablo Matera dotted down to level the scores before England scrum-half Danny Care and Argentina winger Emiliano Boffelli traded tries to make it 25-25. But Will Collier’s try from the back of an England maul and a Ford drop-goal sealed the victory.
“Those see-saw games are terrible,” Jones added. “It was only once George Ford kicked a field goal to put us 10 ahead that we had breathing space.
“I was really pleased at how we stuck at the game. We improved our forward play in the second half after being completely outgunned in the first half. We changed the way we kicked and played really well off their mistakes.
“George Ford was brilliant. It was not a great attacking game from him today – he had to find a way. We did not have much ball, but kicking that field goal at the end was tactically brilliant.”